Hisham Matar, Adonis Big Winners at 2017 PEN America Literary Awards

Arabic Literature (in English)

PEN America’s 2017 awards were announced last night in a ceremony Publishers Weekly called “scaled up” and “political,” and which PEN said they imagined as a “celebration of literature on par with awards shows for other art forms”:

Photo courtesy PEN America.

The headlining first-ever PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, worth $75,000, went to Hisham Matar for his brilliant The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Lands In Between (review, essay) in what PEN America’s news release calls a “dramatic live announcement.”

Other awards announced live on Monday night included the new PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature, which went to the Syrian poet Adonis, who PEN America called somewhat reductively in their news release “the greatest living poet of the Arab world.”

Adonis, we know from Denys Johnson-Davies’ memoir, was mentioned as a possibility for the Nobel Prize for Literature as early as 1988, when the prize went to Naguib Mahfouz. The…

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